Ships in the night...

March 23rd, 2017

People, as human beings, are pretty straight-forward.

Legitimate businesses, such a sole proprietorships, corporations, partnerships or trusts, are legal entities and have the capacity to enter into agreements, assume obligations, incur and pay debts, can sue and be sued, and can be held responsible for its own actions... They are empty vessels that come to life through people that accept responsibility and act on its behalf, which is super fascinating.

It is a fantastic puppet show where sole proprietors can magically use terms like 'we' and mega corporations with thousands of employees can invent artificial personalities from corporate values that, in turn, speak as 'I' through clearly defined brand and tone-of-voice guidelines.

I think it is useful to acknowledge and understand the many layers and facets of this topic whether one is interacting with, or on behalf of, a legal entity. Sometimes, I think of them (legal entities) as living creature or beast where the human aspects represent organs, tissues, and all the guts that sum up the whole... But I am also a fan of spaceship metaphors because we, as humans, remain constant (as humans) and retain all our familiar attributes and colourful behaviours AND the ships present all the facade, scale, and structure of business.

For example, we can pretend someone (the captain) creates a company (which is a ship) and we can imagine the recruitment of a crew to help steer it on some grand voyage, ill-fated mission, or into battle for some kind of righteous financial-based war.

In this fashion, big companies would be these massive star cruisers with hundreds of crewmen to keep her operational; conglomerates would have entire fleets with ships of all shapes and sizes maneuvering in concert to some master plan; and small to medium sized businesses filling out the spectrum.

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You get the picture... it is pretty cool.. a cosmic theatre with all the thrill and drama one could imagine – From the head-to-head conflict of powerful adversaries vying for some finite resource, the small town kids building their own shit-box to make a run for the ultimate prize, the mercenaries ready to flip their flags for the right price (or cause), right down to the ramifications of mutiny or the gut-wrenching loss of a beloved Captain sending a ship into a downward spiral.

Today, ships are changing.

That vessel you spot in the distance, whether it has a silhouette big enough to eclipse a small star, or perhaps it has a profile no larger than an escape pod, you can't over or underestimate what you are up against.

That massive ship may incredibly be steered by a tiny, super-efficient crew capable of doing more, better and faster than an entire fleet.

That harmless looking micro-craft with the unproven pilot approaching... it could very well have the stuff you just weren't built to defend against and teaches you a quick lesson in obsolescence.

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On the flip side, it's hard to feel sorry for that cocky son-of-a-bitch who flew his ship too close to an armada flagship before realizing he didn't have the power to escape her gravitational pull and was shattered into bits skipping across her hull.

This space opera perspective does it for me.

You can throw me any scenario of M&A, talent poaching, dysfunctional teams, recession, scandal, IP litigation, VC funding... we can totally ignite our imagination on many, otherwise, uninteresting aspects of business. It can be a total slog out there and it's easy to become complacent or lose sight of what's happening around us. Finding the tools, interests, and approaches that keep you, individually, motivated and engaged in your work is really your own responsibility. The beauty of it is, if you do it right, not only can it spawn a lot of new ideas, but it can inspire those around you... making you awesome, if not moderately insane (which comes with the territory).

*Illustrations by Tom Lopez.

Read Mighty Matters an articlized version of of the talk delivered at D3DLive, March 28, 2017, Warwick Art Centre, Coventry.